House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her question. Like me, she has a clear understanding of the issues facing Canada's first nations, particularly aboriginal children. I am convinced she knows how dishonourable it is to see children live in the conditions faced by many first nations. Some very simple measures could be taken. First, we could provide true funding to schools and help children get access to books and textbooks, which is not the case right now. This is really minimal. It is said that millions of dollars have been thrown at these reserves, but we are talking about management in a broad sense. We do not try to find out what these people really need. We do not give them a chance to get what they really need. That would be a significant first step.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remember a conversation I once had with a member of the Innu community. He said there are some 50 aboriginal languages in Canada, but only four of them have a critical mass, meaning that enough people know them and use them daily to give those languages a chance to survive in the long term. In other words, an overwhelming majority of these cultures are on the verge of dying.

I would like to put the following questions to my colleague. When we lose dozens of ancestral languages like these, what do we lose? Does the issue go beyond the financial aspect? Why should we invest to preserve these languages?

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup for his questions. I take a special interest in this area, because as a linguist I have often pondered the issue. The fact is that the trend is not irreversible. When we say that a language is below the threshold for survival, the decline can still be reversed. Education is one of the most important measures to help preserve a language. There is no question about that and all linguists agree. It makes all the difference in the world when children go to school in their language and interact with their friends in that language. We have witnessed it in Quebec. It makes a huge difference when a child learns French in school. It is the same thing here. If we give aboriginal children the opportunity to attend primary school in their language, this will do a lot to revitalize aboriginal languages.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, one of the things on which I think we can all agree is that the future for first nations has to improve. On our side we do not think that improvement necessarily depends on spending more money. We have already spent $1.5 billion in Canada on first nations education for 118,000 students.

There are some reserves across the country that are flourishing. The reason they are doing better and better is that they focus on education and economic development. There is one in my riding that continually supports its students. It invests in and sends the children to the public schools. Other first nations have schools on their reserves and are doing very well, but they put an emphasis and focus on working with the federal government, provincial government and municipal government together to provide the best education they can for their students. They use the economic development money to fund education.

Does the member see some benefit in working together with all levels of government to support the students?

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. He is quite right to say that it is not a question of simply throwing money at the reserves and telling them their problems are solved. What we are saying is that these people do not necessarily have the authority to decide what to do with that money. They do not have the authority to give courses or provide education in their own language. Simply giving them money is not the answer. We also need to give them the tools and resources that will help them be more successful and prosperous in the future.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for sharing her time with me. I also thank the member for Manicouagan for sponsoring this motion and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona for seconding it.

I am excited today with the commitment that our caucus has shown to this issue and that we brought it forward as an opposition day motion.

Today the finance critic and I met with the Minister of Finance to talk about the official opposition's priorities with respect to this budget. In our priorities we talked about this issue. We talked about education in first nation communities and how important it was that the government and all members of the House focus their attention on doing a better job of ensuring that young aboriginals would have equal access to not only education, but through education to employment opportunities throughout the country. I am encouraged by the fact that the Minister of Finance indicated that this was a problem, that he understood it and that he wanted to find a way to resolve it. As I understand it, the government has indicated it will support this motion. Therefore, that is some reason for optimism.

I am from Nova Scotia and I have seen some incredible progress being made by the first nations communities in Nova Scotia. There are 13 Mi'kmaw communities in Nova Scotia. Eleven of them are part of what is called Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, which is Mi'kmaw education. It is a partnership among the Mi'kmaw, the province and the federal government and has been in place since 1994. Some communities, like Eskasoni for example, have been working on the education issue going back to 1980. They and this partnership recognize how there are parties to this problem and they need to work together to come up with the solution. They have been making incredible progress. Whether it is on reserve or off reserve, the partners in Nova Scotia have been addressing aboriginal education in a way that is providing for hope and better futures for those aboriginal families and those children. This is the kind of solution that we need to look to in our country. I know there are other jurisdictions in British Columbia, with the Nisga'a, where real progress has made in matters with respect to aboriginal education.

If we are committed to doing it, we need to recognize the spirit of this resolution and the fact that this problem has been ignored for too long. We need to not find fault but find solutions and deal with the problem, and it may take resources. Members in this caucus have identified the fact that the level of education per student for aboriginal children is much lower than it is for other students, and that is not good enough. Therefore, we need to reinvest to ensure solutions are found, but we need to sit down together.

I am encouraged also by the fact that one of the movers and shakers in terms of Mi'kmaw education in the province of Nova Scotia, Chief Morley Googoo, is now a regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations and will be responsible for the education file for the assembly. We have reason for hope. Not only do we have the information now that has been provided by the panel and not only do we understand the problem, but we in the House need to bring our collective commitment to this problem.

We will push the government at every opportunity. It needs to recognize that it is its turn to step up to the plate, get out of the box and not look simply at the dollars but recognize that there is a problem. We talk about skills shortages, the economy and the aging population, but we recognize the fact that fastest-growing young population in the country is coming from aboriginal communities. We need to ensure those people have an opportunity to participate, as they will, in culturally-sensitive education programs so they can participate in our communities and we can build a stronger country.

Opposition Motion—Education for First Nation Children
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Monday, February 27, 2012, at the end of government orders.

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

February 16th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That this House express its deep concern for the safety of Iranian citizen Saeed Malekpour following reports of his imminent execution; that Canada hold Iran accountable for Malekpour's treatment; and that this House call on Iran to reverse its current course, meet its international human rights obligations and release prisoners such as Saeed Malekpour and others who have failed to receive fair and transparent legal treatment.

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Does the House give its consent for the member to move the motion?

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that you see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Foreign Affairs
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is it agreed?